My boots were duck hunter’s boots, so wide and thick that I have a hard time climbing stairs in them. I wore four layers on my legs, four on my torso, three on my arms and hands, two on my head, plus a scarf to wrap around my face. My equipment held up well, creaking a little bit but not refusing to lock and unlock. My brushes were frozen but not brittle enough to break. My Gamsol did not turn into jelly in subzero temperatures like my Turpenoid did two years ago. Nevertheless, painting plein air this past weekend in the North Country was a fool’s enterprise.
My biggest surprise was my paint. I made the mistake of leaving it outside overnight. Freezing oil paint is a good way to prevent the large gobs of untubed paint from drying out; it does not damage the paint. But my paint never had a chance to unfreeze before I set out to paint that first crisp morning. (“Crisp” is such an understatement that it is funny–temps were around minus 14 with strong winds adding emphasis.) Once I got my brushes working, I could only poke at the paint and smear it around a little. (Sharon reported that she couldn’t even make a dent in her yellow with a palette knife.) Meanwhile, my face was so covered up that I couldn’t really see what I was doing, and gusts of wind (which fortunately you do hear coming) would periodically force me to hang onto the equipment and endure sprays of snow until the wind died down. I lasted about 20 minutes not counting set up and break down time. Sharon soldiered on for about another ten minutes. [Sharon Allen is the leader of the NH Plein Air painters group, and for the weekend, my chauffeur and guide.] Below are photos of the spot we were painting and our two attempts.
Just for comparison, here is a painting I did in the fall, after a snowfall on the mountains, from the same spot.
Somewhat wiser after lunch, we sought out a sheltered spot for our next attempt. Nothing like an indoor viewing point for sheltering from wind, so we drove up to the Glen House, across from the Mt. Washington Auto Road, and obtained permission to set up in a corner of the restaurant. Sharon painted the view to the north while mine was southwest.
In my view is Mt. Washington, but a shoulder obscures the top, so no buildings are visible. It’s the hump toward the left side of my panel. Route 16 runs through the painting but I decided to leave it vague.
The next day, Saturday, was a little better. I think the temperature rose to 5 degrees, and the wind had died down. Nevertheless, we got lots of passersby commenting variously on our bravery, determination, and insanity. I was by that time in total agreement. Knocked down a peg or two was I! Below are photos memorializing these efforts.
This green tinted frozen water was what had fascinated both Sharon and me. We had not realized how hard it is to depict frozen water. I had never learned of any way to signal to the onlooker that, hey, this is frozen water here–not flowing water, not an empty field.
Above was a view we had planned to paint Saturday afternoon, but the wind! I guess we were lucky to get in a halfway decent morning. The church in this photo is the same one I was trying to paint from my location in the parking lot of the Jackson Historical Society, up river and to the right in the photo. You can see the sign on the building in the background behind Sharon’s easel, which is why I didn’t crop her Work In Progress down to just the painting itself. The Jackson Historical Society has a collection of White Mountain Art, including a few by Benjamin Champney. Metcalf, Gerry and Shapleigh were my favorites in that collection. The parking lot was a great place to paint if you don’t mind being interrupted by passersby, and since these passersby were on their way inside to see White Mountain art, they got our full attention.
But we never found a suitable spot to paint that afternoon or Sunday either. Every time we spotted a paintable spot, we would check the flagpoles. The flags kept up the whipping all the way home. We took pictures and persuaded ourselves that in doing so, we were doing artists’ work. We wandered through Conway, Albany, Moultonborough, Meredith (lunched there), Weirs Beach, Alton Bay, Chichester, Northwood, and Nottingham (there we stopped by Jenness Farm to buy goat milk soap and socialize with the goats).
So I conclude that to get more use out of my duck hunter’s boots, I must be alert to a good painting day around home and just seize it. Carpe diem! We have a few warmer days coming up this week.
Aline Lotter is currently exhibiting:
at the Hatfield Gallery in Manchester (Langer Place, 55 S. Commercial St., Manchester, NH); at the Bartlett Inn in Bartlett; at the Red Jacket Inn in North Conway; at her law offices at 41 Brook St in Manchester; and at her studio by appointment.
In February, you can also view some of my paintings and drawings at the McGowan Gallery in Concord, NH, and at the Artstream Gallery in Rochester, NH. Receptions for those shows are, respectively, Feb 1, 5-7; and Feb 2, 5-8.
If you happen to be near Orlando, Florida on February 14, 15 or 16, you should go to Nude Nite, a happening at this location: 639 W. Church St. (Blue Freestanding Warehouse just East of I-4). One of my paintings was invited to participate. This one: